A large number of Americans require motorized vehicles to access remote and rugged areas that lack improved roadways. Those most negatively impacted by federal restrictions on motorized travel have been the very young, the very old, and people with physical limitations, including war-injured military veterans, and folks with mobility, balance or stamina-related disabilities.
by Marjorie Haun
Not unlike ‘big timber’ and ‘big oil,’ off-highway (OHV’s), all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s), recreational vehicles (RV’s), and motorized watercraft, have been demonized by environmentalist groups, and increasingly marginalized by federal resource-management agencies. Fortunately, Trump’s Interior Secretary, former Navy SEAL and outdoorsman, Ryan Zinke, is making efforts to reverse that trend. On November 8, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) praised Zinke’s creation of the ‘Made in America’ Recreation Advisory Committee. This new committee gives the motorized recreation industry a voice in the creation of public lands policy, specifically those policies that involve roads, trails and waterways on federally-controlled lands. The RVIA newsletter states:
According to a news release, the committee will advise Secretary Zinke on public-private partnerships across all public lands, with the goal of expanding access to and improving infrastructure on public lands and waterways. The secretary has also appointed former Navy SEAL Captain Rick May as a new senior advisor, focusing on outdoor recreation.
The committee was formulated not just to promote job creation in the motorized recreation industry, but also to facilitate better visitor experiences on public lands, including national forests, national parks and Bureau of Land Management-governed (BLM) lands. A large number of Americans require motorized vehicles to access remote and rugged areas that lack improved roadways. Those most negatively impacted by federal restrictions on motorized travel have been the very young, the very old, and people with physical limitations, including war-injured military veterans, and folks with mobility, balance or stamina-related disabilities. In the Interior Department press release, Zinke detailed his plan:
“The spirit of American innovation and ingenuity is what built our country, and the Interior Department wants that same spirit and energy to resonate within the realm of outdoor recreation on our public lands,” said Secretary Zinke. “By forming this committee, I look forward to hearing from the best and the brightest in our private sector on how to improve the public experience on our federal lands and waters by expanding access for all Americans. We already have thousands of private partners who operate on federal lands. Whether it’s the iconic Jammers in Glacier National Park, the historic El Tovar lodge at the Grand Canyon, or the kayaks that you can rent on the Potomac River, American workers are at the heart of helping American families experience our great outdoors.”
The members of the Committee will be selected for their diverse backgrounds and their experiences with the recreational industry. Prospective members will have knowledge utilizing public-private partnerships, providing recreational visitor experiences, developing and deploying infrastructure improvements, or a thorough understanding of recreational equipment.
“America’s abundance and beauty is something to be both preserved and admired,” said Representative Dennis A. Ross. “As an RV enthusiast, I have been able to experience firsthand the glorious landscape of our great nation, and am thankful for those American entrepreneurs and innovators who think of new ways to experience what our country has to offer. I hope that with their guidance, more Americans will be able to witness the vast bounty of our land, from sea to shining sea.”
“Northern Indiana is the RV Capital of the World, so Hoosiers know outdoor recreation plays a critical role in growing our nation’s economy and creating American manufacturing jobs,” said Representative Jackie Walorski. “I’m pleased Secretary Zinke is launching the “Made in America” Recreation Advisory Committee to help achieve the important goals of increasing access to our nation’s public lands, boosting investment in outdoor tourism, and building more American-made products like RVs and boats.”
The duties of the Committee are strictly advisory and will consist of, but not be limited to, providing recommendations including:
Policies and programs that:
•Expand and improve visitor infrastructure developed through public-private partnerships;
•Implement sustainable operations embracing fair, efficient and convenient fee collection and strategic use of the collected fees;
•Improve interpretation using technology;
•Create better tools and/or opportunities for Americans to discover their lands and waters.
The Forest Service and BLM have antagonized people in many localities by unilaterally closing and destroying trails and roads on public lands. The 2001 federal ‘Roadless Rule,’ created under the guise of preservation, has been misused by federal agencies to unnecessarily prevent motorized use of countless historic roads and trails. As a result, the rule has faced several court challenges from various states. Tragically, in recent years, wildland fire crews have been impeded from carrying out mitigation and suppression efforts because motorized vehicles–even those carrying essential firefighting equipment–are prohibited from entering ‘roadless’ areas.
A branch of the environmentalist movement, so-called ‘quiet trails’ and ‘quiet waters’ groups, have spearheaded efforts to limit the use of motorized road vehicles and watercraft for public lands recreation and travel. Although there are still many roads, trails and waterways open to motorized vehicles, the environmentalist movement is generally opposed to anything with a motor, and federal agencies have often shared that animosity. Nevertheless, it appears that sentiment is not holding sway in Trump’s interior Department, and bringing the motorized recreational vehicle industry to the table in order to improve public lands access, will enable countless Americans to be fully included in outdoor recreation activities.
Free Range Report